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Knocking-out the human face genes TBX15 and PAX1 in mice alters facial and other physical morphology

By Yu Qian, ziyi Xiong, Yi Li, haibo Zhou, Manfred Kayser, Lei Liu, Fan Liu

Posted 26 May 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.05.26.445773

DNA variants in or closed to the human TBX15 and PAX1 genes have been repeatedly associated with facial morphology in independent genome-wide association studies, while their functional roles in determining facial morphology remains to be understood. We generated Tbx15 knockout ( Tbx15 -/- ) and Pax1 knockout ( Pax1 -/- ) mice by applying the one-step CRISPR/Cas9 method. A total of 75 adult mice were used for subsequent phenotype analysis, including 38 Tbx15 mice (10 homozygous Tbx15 -/- , 18 heterozygous Tbx15 +/- , 10 wild-type WT) and 37 Pax1 mice (12 homozygous Pax1 -/- , 15 heterozygous Pax1 +/- , 10 WT mice). Facial and other physical morphological phenotypes were obtained from three-dimensional (3D) images acquired with the HandySCAN BLACK scanner. Compared to WT mice, the Tbx15 -/- mutant mice had significantly shorter faces ( P =1.08E-8, R2=0.61) and their ears were in a significantly lower position ( P =3.54E-8, R2=0.62) manifesting an "ear dropping" characteristic. Besides these face alternations, Tbx15 -/- mutant mice displayed significantly lower weight as well as shorter body and limb length. Pax1 -/- mutant mice showed significantly longer noses ( P =1.14E-5, R2=0.46) relative to WT mice, but otherwise displayed less obvious morphological alterations than Tbx15 -/- mutant mice did. Because the Tbx15 and Pax1 effects on facial morphology we revealed here in mice are largely consistent with previously reported TBX15 and PAX1 face associations in humans, we suggest that the functional role these two genes play on determining the face of mice is similar to the functional impact their human homologues have on the face of humans.

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